With nearly 20 novels and some 70 short stories under her belt, NYT bestselling author Carrie Vaughn arrives in Santa Fe today for an appearance at George RR Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema.
In a chat with SFR, the Golden Age series mastermind opened up about her process, fandom and the werewolf talk-show host that has marked her career.
What drew you to science fiction and fantasy?
I grew up with it, like a lot of people. My parents both read and watched science fiction, so I grew up watching Star Trek and Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica and all that great '70s stuff. Also, reading Heinlen and Ray Bradbury. So really, when I decided I really liked writing and I wanted to be a writer, that was the milieu I wanted to be in. I really didn't want to do anything else.
I guess the expected question is, is it harder as a woman to carve out a name for yourself in the industry?
I haven't found that to be the case. I mean, maybe once upon a time. I know there are still cases—depending on what sub-genre you're writing in—where women use their initials or an ambiguous first name to hide their gender because I think [women] who write more epic fantasy, space opera and hard science fiction have a harder time in those areas. It's changing, but of course, not quickly enough. Since I write more urban fantasy and paranormal, those are areas where it's expected to see women writers.
What is your writing process like?
I try to do as much prep work as I can. I'm not very good at outlining. I try to outline, but I do end up making it up as I go along. I like to know the ending before I start—I like to know where I'm headed—so I really try to figure out where am I going? What am I trying to do with the story? The other thing I do that's kind of unusual is that I'm usually working on more than one thing at a time, so I'll be writing a novel and if I get stuck on that, then I'll switch and write a short story. Then when I finish the short story, I'll go back to the novel. I may be writing one novel and then planning the next. I'm always working on something; there are no days off.
Oddly enough, it sounds a little bit like George's.
I've been a fan of George for a long time, so it's been great to kind of get to meet him. I was at the theater last year for a book event for one of the anthologies that he's edited, so it'll be cool to go back there on my own, with my own books.
You said that in 2014 you "worked on whatever the hell came to mind." Is this going to be a recurring theme this year?
Yeah, kind of. I was between contracts last year, so I didn't really have a deadline that was determining what I worked on. It's been kind of unusual, because since I started publishing novels, the novel deadlines kind of determined everything in my entire schedule and what I work on. Lately it's been feeling more like before I had a novel published and I could work on whatever idea popped into my head. I'm doing that a little more now, which is a lot of fun.
What is your personal relationship with Kitty Norville like?
She's been great. It's so funny that we talk about characters like they're real people, but I've been writing that character for so long, that yeah, she does feel real sometimes. I started out writing short stories about her at least 15 years ago now, I think. So I've been writing this character for a very long time, and she's taught me a lot about writing. I'm a much better writer now than I was 15 years ago when I started out with the character, and I'm grateful because she established my career and taught me a lot.
So it's fair to say that she isn't the bane of your existence?
Oh no [laughs]. I never thought I would be writing a 14-book series, though. When I was starting out, I thought I'd be one of those writers who writes a different book every time, so when I found myself writing this long, ongoing series, that was kind of a surprise. At the same time it's been a great challenge; how do you write that many books about the same character and keep it interesting and keep it fresh?
What do you take away from appearances like the one you're going to be a part of in Santa Fe?
Well, you get to meet your readers, first off. That's really gratifying. Lots of authors have said that writing is lonely. You spend a lot of time alone in your office with your pen or your computer, and it's easy sometimes to think that nobody cares, that nobody's listening. So I can come to an event like this—and I've been doing it for a long time now—and it's always a little bit surprising that there are people there, you know? I still walk into a room and half-expect the room to be empty, so it always makes me really happy when people have read the books and then they show up wanting to talk about them. It makes it much easier to go back to the office the next day and get back to work, because you know that people are out there and they're waiting for your next story.